When baby talk is no laughing matter

Wednesday, 6th February, 2013

Speech pathologist Olwen Morgen expects demand for her skills to be high given the growing prevalence of speech problems in children. Speech pathologist Olwen Morgen expects demand for her skills to be high given the growing prevalence of speech problems in children.

By Kurtis J Eichler

After 26 years of helping children with speaking difficulties in Europe and Africa, speech pathologist Olwen Morgen has decided to settle in Broken Hill.

Following a brief stint in the hospital's speech pathology unit two years ago, Ms Morgen is setting up a permanent practice at the Morgan Street Allied Health Service.

The Zimbabwe-raised pathologist specialises in paediatrics for infants up to 18 months old. She also works with children suffering from autistic spectrum disorder and a range of learning difficulties.

Ms Morgen has found the most common problem was children not talking by the age of two.

She says a "good guide" was that they should be speaking 100 words by that age.

"It could be about environment - they never get the chance to talk," she said.

"Also they are not expected to talk, so often times that can be an explanation but not always the entire explanation.

"Another issue might just be a history of hearing loss due to ear infections but also because they have specific language difficulties.

"They might have normal development in other areas but they've really been unable to comprehend or name things."

Ms Morgen uses a few practices to overcome these hurdles, mainly parent-child interaction sessions.

This shows parents what they can do 24/7 to support their child's comprehension and their ability to name things or string words together.

Research has shown that between six and 10 per cent of Australian children have difficulties with speech.

Six per cent of those suffer from "persistent" problems that never go away, Ms Morgen said.

She is an advocate of prevention and has spoken to a number of agencies about doing unpaid work to help with children's speech development.

She has also expressed interest in doing work in towns across the Far West.

It would follow on from work she did in Africa where she trained teachers to reach out to children.

"It's never too early to refer and people can also selfrefer and people can also get Medicare support"

Ms Morgen will see her first patient tomorrow.